Sunday, January 29, 2023
Saturday, January 28, 2023
From Regina Egea, President of the Garden State Initiative:
Over the last 2 years, states across the county, 38 states to be exact, have enacted significant reforms to their state tax codes. Overwhelmingly, those reforms have resulted in significant tax cuts for residents and to help businesses recover from the pandemic.
While those tax-cutters were a combination of “Red and Blue” states, New Jersey was not among them.
In the latest edition of our podcast, The GSI Briefing, I had the opportunity to speak with Katherine Loughead, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for State Tax Policy at the Tax Foundation, who covered all of the significant tax reforms across the country and what it means for our state.
Without giving too much away, perhaps the most important commentary was offered at the 20 minute mark, where I asked Katherine what New Jersey can do to compete. Her response should illuminate the discussion over our state’s budget next month – “Stop being such an extreme outlier” – when it comes to our high taxes.
You can listen to our complete conversation by clicking below and be sure to subscribe.
This blog/website will be 16 years old later this year. It will indeed be a Sweet Sixteen and we're already planning for a celebration that's tout glacé!
This whole thing started on a dare from Aimee Cirucci (now Aimee Lorge) who told us we could set up a blog in ten minutes. We barely knew what a blog was. But we went to a place called Blogger (the best known of very few such platforms at that time) and, after a few easy steps we were up and running. In the beginning we were just this side of rudimentary. But over time became more sophisticated, more technologically advanced and more up to date. We did this, and we continue to do it, to compete as best we can. Still, the basic structure and purpose of this site haas not changed. Though we've added much more video and become more of an aggregator of items culled from many sources, we've retained our distinctive look and view of the world filtered through our own gimlet eye. We plan to keep it that way as long as you keep following us.
Anyway, our first post on this site in November, 2007 was all about authenticity. The people and events we mentioned at that time were very much of the era and are now somewhat dated. But the point of the whole essay remains: authenticity is a rare commodity and our nation still thirsts for it just as it did then. Here's what we said:
Ed Rendell seems to have it, but Jon Corzine probably wouldn't recognize it if he tripped over it.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has it. Justice Anthony Kennedy doesn't. Thomas Eakins had it. Thomas Kinkade doesn't. Barbra Streisand had it a long time ago, then lost it. Martha Stewart lost it, but got it back again.
Though it's a hot commodity, Charles Schwab can't sell it, and Donald Trump can't buy it.
I'm talking about authenticity. And right now it's the one thing we seem to crave more than anything else.
Without our quest for authenticy, Ralph Lauren would never have prospered and plastic slipcovers would never, mercifully, have died. Our thirst for all things authentic gave birth to shabby chic, recycled paper products, the rise of Northern Liberties and the demise of Styrofoam.
It's also why expensive new items of clothing or furniture have been distressed, weathered, stone-washed, frayed and even torn so that they'd look like they've been used or worn for years. Authenticity is the father of retro. It's what inspires automakers to design cars like the PT Cruiser and the Scion and the Chevy HHR.
Our nation yearns for the faded colors of Old Glory, the familiarity of a real neighborhood, the intimacy of a corner bar, the security of an old armchair and the taste of almost anything that's in season and fresh cooked.
The philosopher Kierkegaard said: "No authentic human life is possible without irony." In recent times, what then is more ironic than the emergence of Ronald Reagan as an authentic American hero? Reagan was a movie star, steeped in the artificiality of Hollywood. But he understood and wisely embraced the yearnings of small-town America.
He not only knew how to tap into something deep within our collective soul but he also trusted us with that soul. At the same time, he always remained true to his core beliefs. And over the long haul, this combination of confidence and constancy proved comforting. It won our affection and, more important, our trust.
Being authentic is hard work.
It takes discipline. Authentic leaders know who they are. They are comfortable in their own skin. Their own quiet, practiced belief in themselves is what moves them to inspire others.
And they do that by first spending lots of time really listening to the people they hope to inspire. In a world full of cowards, genuine leaders are called on to chart new paths, take risks and even show a bit of old-fashioned courage now and then.
AUTHENTIC leaders are imperfect. They're distinctive, quirky and even eccentric.
And because they aren't afraid to trust their instincts, they can surprise us as well. There's little doubt that Churchill was authentic. So, too, was Harry Truman.
But what about those who aspire to lead us today? Is Mitt Romney really too good to be true? Will Barack Obama be able to find his own voice and summon the maturity to lead?
Is John McCain truly unique or just plain cranky? When Rudy Giuliani accepts a phone call from his wife in the middle of a speech, is that real - or simply rude? And in the end, is there anything at all about Hillary Clinton that's genuine?
Right now, we don't know the answers to these questions.
We only know that we yearn for authenticity.
But always, we must be careful what we wish for. And we must pay close attention to all that we see and hear and experience while the spinmeisters and image-makers toil away.
For while we continue to crave authenticity, some of us suspect that George Orwell may have been right nearly 60 years ago when he said: "We have a hunger for something like authenticity, but are easily satisfied by an ersatz facsimile."
Friday, January 27, 2023
Many voters have concerns about risks from the COVID-19 vaccine and a majority want a congressional investigation of how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has handled the issue.
Thursday, January 26, 2023
New Jersey State Senator Doug Steinhardt has introduced legislation that would prohibit foreign ownership of New Jersey farmland amid rising concerns about a Chinese buying spree of American farms.
“We need to pay attention to the fact that China and its proxies have been buying up farmland across the United States,” said Steinhardt (R-23). “When you recognize that food security is national security, it quickly becomes clear that we need to prevent our agricultural lands in New Jersey from falling under the control of hostile foreign governments.”
The Wall Street Journal highlighted last year how state-owned Chinese companies were spending billions to buy farmland and agricultural enterprises across the United States, including the purchase of the largest pork producer in the world, Virginia’s Smithfield Foods.
In other states, including North Dakota and Texas, China has been purchasing farmland in close proximity to sensitive U.S. military installations, raising spying concerns.
Steinhardt’s new legislation, S-3534, would prohibit any foreign government or foreign person from acquiring, purchasing, or otherwise obtaining an interest in any agricultural land in the State, with limited exceptions.
Further, the bill requires any foreign-owned farmland to be sold within five years of the bill’s enactment to an individual, trust, corporation, partnership, or other business entity that is not a foreign government or foreign person, with a deed easement attached to the land requiring the land to remain devoted to agricultural use.
With tensions rising in the Pacific, Steinhardt warned that Chinese control of our food supply could be disastrous should a military conflict occur.
“We can’t make the same mistake with our farms that we made with other industries like manufacturing that we handed over to China and other adversaries and competitors,” added Steinhardt. “You can live without your iPhone if China shuts off the supply from its factories, but you can’t live without the food that comes from our farms. It’s that simple.”
Steinhardt is also drafting legislation that would require the State Investment Council (SIC) to do an expedited review of its investments in Chinese companies. The SIC manages the investment of $95 billion in assets for the public employee pension funds of hundreds of thousands of active and retired state and local government workers.
New Jersey State Senator Michael Testa issued the following statement after it was revealed that Governor Phil Murphy and Democrat legislative leaders spent $522,783 of federal pandemic relief funds on a fleet of new Chevy Suburbans for the State Police’s Executive Protection Unit:
“It’s disturbing that Governor Murphy and Democrat leaders chose to spend pandemic relief funds to buy new SUVs for the State Police to chauffeur them around the state. Instead of putting the billions in unspent relief funds that have sat idle in state accounts for two years to effective use, Democrats prioritized their own comfort and convenience over helping people. It’s despicable.”
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
The Republican members of the New Jersey Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee blasted a new report issued by the New Jersey Division of Taxation that calls for the taxation of cloud computing and software subscription services.
“The latest report from Taxation makes it clear that the Murphy administration is looking at new taxes on many Internet-based services,” said Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), the Republican Budget Officer. “So much for Governor Murphy’s recent statements that there would be ‘no new taxes.’ That certainly didn’t last long.”
During a recent Bloomberg interview following his State of the State address, Governor Murphy said there would be “absolutely no new taxes” this year for New Jerseyans.
“Governor Murphy continues to parse words when he talks about tax increases,” said Senate Republican Leader Steven Oroho (R-24). “He might not enact the new taxes on Internet services right away, but he’s clearly doing the planning. Maybe it’ll be after Election Day, maybe 2024, but these new taxes on cloud services are almost certainly on the governor’s drawing board.”
The proposed tax increases were included in a report issued by the Division of Taxation, “Studying the Impact of Digital Economy.”
One section of the report broadly recommends taxing cloud services that “allow a customer to access and use the software of a service provider through the internet.”
“Popular cloud services that many people use to back up their phones and computers could end up being taxed,” said Senator Michael Testa (R-1). “If you pay for extra storage through services like iCloud, Google One, OneDrive, or Dropbox, get ready to pay more if Murphy’s proposed cloud tax is enacted.”
Another section of the report notes that Software as a Service (SaaS) is currently not taxed and recommends a tax be considered “in the context of contemporary software practices and the market growth of SaaS.”
With most software now distributed online, software subscription services have grown increasingly common. Instead of a one-time purchase, consumers pay a monthly or annual fee in exchange for access to the latest version of a program and product updates.
“‘Software as a Service’ is what people are paying for when they subscribe to Office 365, Adobe Creative Suite, and other popular software products used on their phones, laptops, and tablets,” said Senator Doug Steinhardt (R-23). “Adding new taxes to these increasingly popular software subscriptions is just one more way Governor Murphy will nickel-and-dime New Jerseyans.”
The Republican Budget Committee members challenged Governor Murphy to state clearly if the tax increases proposed by his administration’s Division of Taxation are in the works.
“New Jerseyans deserve to know if new taxes on cloud services and other digital products will be advanced by the Murphy administration as the Division of Taxation is proposing,” added Senator Sam Thompson (R-12). “If Governor Murphy plans on considering or adopting these cloud taxes at any point in the future, even if not this year, he should have the decency to be honest about it.”
The Miraculous Medal Shrine, a Marian devotional destination and ministry of the Vincentians of the Eastern Province in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, has been elevated by the Vatican to Minor Basilica status. This designation is shared by only one other church in the City of Philadelphia, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, and 91 others across the United States. The Shrine, along with the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception that houses it, are now known as the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
The central functions of a basilica are rooted in the sacramental life of the Church as a site of pilgrimage, an historical landmark, and a house of significant sacred art. The basilica title gives the Shrine certain privileges and responsibilities, principally the celebration of the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter; the solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter, and Paul; and the anniversary of the pope’s election into pastoral ministry. Additionally, since the designation denotes a special bond of communion with the residing pope, the Basilica Shrine can remove all temporal consequences of sin to individuals, which remain even after the person’s sin has been forgiven (plenary indulgence).
As a ministry of the Congregation of the Mission priests and brothers—commonly known as the Vincentians—the Basilica Shrine has held historical significance in the Philadelphia area, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the Eastern United States for more than 140 years.